Grassroots or California AstroTurf?
by Brent Regan
In a recent guest opinion, Reclaim Idaho’s Luke Mayville claims ignorance as to why I filed a complaint with the Secretary of State regarding the apparent undeclared $500,000 contribution that Reclaim received. To find the answer, one only has to go as far as Mayville’s own statements.
“To collect the remainder of the needed signatures — about 27,000 —Reclaim Idaho will use paid signature gatherers through the Fairness Project” Luke Mayville, Sandpoint Reader 3/22/2018
“It is true that the Fairness Project was one of many partners in the effort to expand Medicaid in Idaho,” “$500,000 is a relatively small amount to spend on a signature campaign” Luke Mayville, CDA Press 4/9/2019
Reclaim Idaho’s “grassroots” Proposition 2 signature gathering campaign failed to gather the required number of signatures to get Proposition 2 on the ballot. Reclaim had to rely on a professional company, Fieldworks LLC to collect the badly needed signatures. For this effort, Fieldworks was paid ~$500,000 by The Fairness Project PAC which in turn is the brain child of a California SEIU-UHW Union leader. This outside dark money was critical to putting Proposition 2 on the ballot.
On July 6, 2018 the Daily Kos reported that Reclaim Idaho delivered all 70,000 petition signatures to the State Capitol.
“Dozens of volunteers, led by Reclaim Idaho’s Emily Strizich, Luke Mayville, and Republican State Representative Christy Perry, officially delivered petition signatures Friday morning to put Medicaid expansion on this fall’s ballot.” “They turned in over 70,000 signatures, easily surpassing the required 56,192.”
Idaho law is clear. If a person purchases something for a campaign, signs for example, and delivers those to the campaign, then the campaign must declare the fair market value of those signs as an “in kind” contribution. Idaho code 67-6602(c) defines a “contribution” as including “anything of value”. Reclaim attempts to deflect this by saying they did not receive any cash from the Fairness Project. True, but that isn’t the issue. The 20,000 signatures collected for the tidy sum of $500,000 and delivered to Reclaim IS the contribution.
Idaho law does allow for the $500,000 to go unreported IF it is an “Independent Expenditure”. Idaho code 67-6602(i) defines an independent expenditure as:
“Independent expenditure” means any expenditure by a person for a communication expressly advocating the election, passage or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or measure that is not made with the cooperation or with the prior consent of, or in consultation with, or at the consent of, or in consultation with, or at the request of a suggestion of, a candidate or any agent or authorized committee of the candidate or political committee supporting or opposing a measure.”
But there was cooperation, consultation, requests, and consent between the “partners” Reclaim Idaho and The Fairness Project. SEIU-UHW meeting minutes from June 15, 2018 show Reclaim Idaho’s Executive Director, Rebecca Schroeder went to San Jose, California, and met with The Fairness Project’s founder to make the case for Proposition 2. Also, The Fairness Project’s website states:
“The Fairness Project worked with local partners in Idaho to pass a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.”
Mayville himself is quoted in multiple articles calling the Fairness Project a “partner”. How can you be a partner without any cooperation, or consultation, or consent, or suggestions, or requests between partners? The reasonable answer is that you can’t.
The facts are clear, Reclaim requested assistance from the Fairness Project to gather signatures. That assistance was given in the amount of ~$500,000 spent with Fieldworks LLC who collected ~27,000 signatures and delivered those $500,000 worth of signatures to Reclaim who then delivered all the signatures to the Secretary of State.
Even if Mayville is lying and the Fairness Project operated completely independently, there is still the matter of Fieldworks delivering the $500,000 worth of signatures to Reclaim, a clear contribution in kind and one critical to Reclaim putting Proposition 2 on the ballot.
Why didn’t Reclaim simply report the $500,000 in kind donation? Probably because if it was widely known that 80% of the costs to collect signatures were paid by a Washington DC progressive organization, the “successful grassroots effort” narrative would be exposed as a lie.
I have made a written request to the State Elections Director, Lisa Power, as to why they do not consider Reclaim to be in violation, and for a concise definition and guidance concerning what is and what is not an independent expenditure. If Mr. Mayville has found a loophole to slither through then that loophole needs to be closed.
The Initiative is a right reserved for Idaho residents to use. It is not intended for out of state interests to exploit. This begs the larger questions we should be asking: Why would a Washington DC political action committee run by a California union boss spend half a million dollars on Idaho’s Proposition 2? Don’t you deserve to know what they want?
The opinions expressed are my own and not those of any organization that I am a member.
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