How Jordan & Little compare: Travel spending, big donors and their own finances

Brad Little, left, and Paulette Jordan after a College of Idaho candidate forum Oct. 2.
Brad Little, left, and Paulette Jordan after a College of Idaho candidate forum Oct. 2. Idaho Statesman file

Idaho’s Democratic and Republican candidates for governor have taken significantly different approaches to campaigning.

Both former state Rep. Paulette Jordan and Lt. Gov. Brad Little have devoted time to crisscrossing the state, meeting with constituents in small groups and at official forums. But since Jordan entered the race this spring, she’s also pursued a national profile — for example, attending a Las Vegas women’s march that led to an endorsement from Cher.

The candidates’ new campaign finance reports this week illustrate that contrast.

Jordan’s campaign spent more on food alone than the Little campaign paid for all its travel and food expenses combined, in the four-month period from May 26 to Sept. 30. That’s according to an Idaho Statesman analysis of the reports filed Wednesday with the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.

Jordan’s full spending totaled $521,502 during that time, including $100,920 in unpaid expenses. Travel and food expenses comprised $89,494 of that amount, or 17 percent.

Little’s campaign spent a full $266,057. Travel and food expenses made up $7,831, or 3 percent, of that spending.

Jordan spent $46,632 on commercial and private air travel and nearly $21,000 in hotels and lodging. By comparison, Little spent $2,445 in commercial airfare and almost $3,000 in hotel and lodging.

When it comes to food, Jordan’s campaign spent $7,979 across the country. Little spent $101 at two Idaho restaurants.

Big donors

Little and Jordan received very similar amounts of money from two distinctive donors.

A review of Little’s records show he received at least $63,700 from 20 political action committees. All were Idaho PACs except for the Idaho Conservative Growth Fund — U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo’s federal leadership PAC, which gave $10,000 split between the primary and general elections. ANRI PAC, Snake River Sugar Co PAC, Idaho Medical PAC, Enterprise Holdings Inc PAC, Idaho Horse Racing PAC and the Idaho Credit Union Legislative Action Committee were other large donors, all giving $5,000 each.

Jordan is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and previously served on its tribal council. Her records show very little obvious PAC support — a PAC representing the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave her $2,500. But Native American tribes from across the country continue to support her run for office. She received $60,100 from 24 tribes, including $5,000 each from the Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai and Shoshone-Bannock tribes in Idaho and from other tribes in Washington state, Minnesota and California.

Jordan’s campaign during this period helped set up a federal super PAC “to accept donations from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe ... for spending on Federal First Nations’ issues,” according to a statement from the PAC earlier this fall. Such PACs must make donations independently of any political candidates; no donations from the PAC appear in Jordan’s disclosures.

While the dollar amounts were close, Jordan relied somewhat more on the tribal money than Little did on the PACs. The PAC donations made up nearly 9 percent of Little’s total $724,568 in contributions. Tribal donors provided 12.7 percent of Jordan’s $472,940.

A different disclosure: Personal finances

Idaho is one of just two states that do not require elected officials to reveal any information about their personal finances, a tool that can help indicate conflicts of interest with pending bills and ordinances.

Jordan in January sought to help introduce a bill requiring such disclosures, but her motion in a House committee failed. The issue also arose in the primaries; Little and other Republican candidates released various disclosures, while Jordan and Democrat AJ Balukoff did not despite suggestions that they might.

The Statesman recently asked Little and Jordan to voluntarily provide financial disclosure statements for 2016 and 2017. Little provided both. Jordan did not provide written statements, but her campaign answered some questions about her interests.

According to Little’s statements, he earned $93,941 in 2017 from four sources: his salary as lieutenant governor ($51,091) and management fees from three family-owned businesses, Little Cattle Company ($18,650), Little Enterprises ($18,000) and Little Land and Livestock ($6,000). His income from investments and other assets fell somewhere between $570,862 and $1,224,400; the report was not more specific.

Little’s investment assets were valued between $14 million and $37.8 million. He reported no debts. Additionally, Little served as an unpaid director on two boards, Emmett Public School Foundation, Inc. and Performance Design LLC, a Boise paper-punch and document binding manufacturing company.

The Statesman also asked if Little has any gas or oil leases on land he or his family owns. According to his campaign, Little Enterprises recently purchased a piece of land on which the previous owner had signed an oil and gas lease. But there has been no activity on that lease.

Jordan’s campaign manager, Nate Kelly, told the Statesman she earned $77,411 last year, including her Coeur d’Alene Tribe salary ($55,173), her legislative salary ($17,937) and tribal dividends ($4,300). Kelly also said Jordan owns a house and a car.

During an Oct. 2 candidate forum at The College of Idaho, Jordan described herself as “a businesswoman. I have served as a national leader for the last eight years, primarily as a senior executive amongst my group. It is a $32 billion nonprofit corporation.”

Jordan later told the Statesman she was referring to a role as an elected board member with the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA). The organization is a Washington D.C.-based educational and lobbying arm of the tribal gaming industry. The $32 billion figure is not the organization’s worth, but the gross revenue from tribal gambling operations nationwide in 2017, her campaign clarified.

Per NIGA’s 2016 federal tax return, Jordan serves as the board secretary, an unpaid position that averages about two hours weekly. Jordan’s campaign confirmed this is correct.

Brad Little has been a mainstay in Idaho politics since 2001, first as a state senator then, starting in 2009, as lieutenant governor. Now, in 2018, he's the Republican nominee to be Idaho's next governor.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan has received national attention for potentially becoming Idaho's first female governor and Native American governor shattering the stereotypical image of Idahoan politicians.

Cynthia Sewell is Idaho Statesman’s political and investigative reporter. Contact her at (208) 377-6428, csewell@idahostatesman.com or @CynthiaSewell on Twitter.