The Idaho Republican Party says Democratic Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff might be violating campaign finance law. But Balukoff's campaign said it is only doing what Republican campaigns have done in the past, but with more transparency and disclosure.
The GOP said in a press release issued late Friday that Balukoff's staff are paid by the Idaho Democratic Party, which Balukoff spokesman Mike Lanza said was simply contracting for a bookkeeping service. "This abnormal shuffling of funds where you have the Democratic Party paying for his staff and then the candidate making contributions back to the party raises several red flags," said Jason S. Risch, a GOP campaign finance attorney "I have never seen this done before, but it's clearly not within the intent of the campaign disclosure law which is designed to promote transparency."
State law prohibits a political party from contributing more than $10,000 in an election cycle to a candidate, including in-kind contributions such as paying for a candidate's staff. The law also requires a campaign to report unpaid debt if it plans to pay that debt back.
"If they are paying for his staff, then they are violating the law by exceeding the legal contribution limits," Idaho GOP Executive Director David Johnston stated. "If they are advancing the campaign the money by paying for the staff then that should be reported as a loan."
Lanza said in 2010 Lt. Gov. Brad Little paid wages thru ADP Payroll Service and Gov. Butch Otter did the same through Veritas Advisors, a lobbying and campaign consulting group. GOP Sen. Russ Fulcher used a similar system in the primary, he said.
The only difference is Balukoff is using the party infrastructure for payroll bookkeeping, Lanza said.
The Democratic Party issued its own press release and said it had fully vetted its contract with the Balukoff campaign with attorneys and CPAs.
"We are fully confident in its legality," said Dean Ferguson, a party spokesman.