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Issue Brief

Campaign Finance
Sources of the House
State Affairs Committee
Abstract Looking at campaign finance reports filed
by Idaho legislative candidates in the 2014 election
cycle, something becomes very obvious: a lot of money
flows into Idaho politics from out of state.

Better Idaho is a communication


and research platform designed
to keep government transparent
and information flowing freely by
monitoring compliance with open
records laws, improving access to
campaign finance information, and
creating a direct communication
bridge between Idahoans and their
elected officials.

For more information about this


brief, please contact:
Derek Farr
Executive Director
Better Idaho
derek@betteridaho.org
304.904.1990 (cell)

A closer look, however, reveals an even more surprising


pattern. Very few campaign contributions to legislative
candidates actually come from voters within that
candidates legislative district.
Better Idaho sought to quantify that pattern by
evaluating every campaign contribution to each
member of the House State Affairs Committee in 2014.
Those contributions were analyzed to determine which
came from the legislators district.
It was also determined whether the contribution came
from an average citizen or a lobbyists, corporation,
political action committees or advocacy group.
The House State Affairs Committee is often the first
hurdle for any campaign finance reformation bills,
hence its members were chosen for this analysis.
Overview Only 37.59 percent of the voting-age
population cast a ballot in the 2014 General Election.
A common theory says cynicism is a major factor
contributing to low turnout. The theory is that citizens
feel the game is rigged, or that their vote doesnt really
count, therefore, they need not bother casting a ballot.
A plethora of outside money is often seen as the
contributing cause.
Are those disenfranchised voters correct? Is there
a reason to be cynical? Better Idaho cant make that
determination through this analysis; however, the
numbers speak for themselves.

Analysis of 2014 State affairs campaign finance

Idaho House State Affairs Committee


Campaign Contributions in 2014

Findings The overwhelming majority of campaign


contributions in the 2014 elections cycle came from outof-district contributors, while less than 20 percent of
campaign contributions were from within a lawmakers
district.

Findings A majority of contributions are not made


by average citizens - a person who is eligible to vote
- rather, they are coming from special interest groups,
lobbyists, corporations, political action committees and
advocacy groups.

Significance The influence of outside special interest


groups conflicts with our ideas of representative
government. Lawmakers are elected from geographic
areas, ostensively to represent the people in those areas,
but when $8 out of every $10 of campaign contributions
comes from outside special interests, the interests of
average constituents loses its primacy.

Significance Money buys access to legislators. While


the average citizen only has one vote to influence his/
her lawmaker, out-of-district entities have thousands
of dollars invested to insure access to elected officials,
many of whom have dissimilar interests to a lawmakers
constituency. If cynicism of the system was the goal, it
would be hard to create a better system.

The Good News

In 2014, there was a rough correlation between the number of contributions and dollar amounts.

Better Idaho

The Bad News


Percent of campaign dollars from average citizens

Committee members with zero


contributions from average citizens: Andrus
Batt
Holtzclaw
Palmer

Nearly one quarter of the House State Affairs Committee received no contributions from average citizens in 2014.
Only three received at least half of their total from average citizens.

Comparison of in-district and out-of district contributions

Both parties receive a majority of their money from out-of-district contributors in 2014.

Analysis of 2014 State affairs campaign finance

Idaho House State Affairs Committee


Campaign Contributions in 2014
By Party: Republicans

Total money raised = $159,140


Total committee members = 13

By Party: Democrats

Total money raised = $109,112


Total committee members = 4
Findings The three committee members with lowest
percentage of in-district contributions were GOP Reps.
Batt, Luker and Holtzclaw, who received 0, 2.39, and
2.56 percent respectively. Of those three, Batt ran
unopposed, Luker had a general election opponent,
and Holtzclaw faced a third-party general election
opponent.

Findings The most noteworthy revelation of this


analysis is that nearly one-quarter of committee
members received no money from average citizens.
Reps. Andrus, Batt, Holtzclaw and Palmer, all GOP,
received zero contributions from average citizens.
When committee member contributions are combined,
neither party received a majority from average citizens.
However, three committee members received 50 percent
or more. Democratic Reps. Wintrow and McCrostie
and GOP Rep. Cheatham had 76.29, 71.69, and 50
percent respectively.

The three highest in-district percentages belonged


to GOP Rep. Cheatham, and Democratic Reps.
Wintrow and Jordan with 50, 49.49, and 33.24 percent
respectively. Cheatham was opposed in the primary.
Jordan was opposed in the general election and Wintrow
had a primary opponent.
The average contribution to Democrats on the
committee was $205 while the average contribution to
There was no correlation between having an opponent Republicans was $337. Democrats raised $27,285 per
and the percentage of out-of-district money.
committee member, Republicans $12,241.
4

Better Idaho

Vito Barbieri (R) Dist. 2

Don Cheatham (R) Dist. 3

Total Contributions

$12,500

Total Contributions

In-district Contributions

12.40%

In-district Contributions

50%

From individual citizen

50%

From individual citizen

8.8%

Kathleen Sims (R) Dist. 4

$2,000

Paulette Jordan (D) Dist. 5

Total Contributions

$16,400

Total Contributions

$45,341

In-district Contributions

19.82%

In-district Contributions

41.10%

From individual citizen

31.98%

From individual citizen

18.6%

Shannon McMillan (R) Dist. 7


Total Contributions

$12,750

Gayle Batt (R)


Total Contributions

Dist. 11
$8,400

In-district Contributions

9.02%

In-district Contributions

0%

From individual citizen

8.63%

From individual citizen

0%

Brent Crane (R) Dist. 13


Total Contributions

$24,450

Lynn Luker (R) Dist. 15


Total Contributions

$12,550

In-district Contributions

5.52%

In-district Contributions

2.39%

From individual citizen

1.84%

From individual citizen

7.97%
5

Analysis of 2014 State affairs campaign finance

John McCrostie (D) Dist. 16

Melissa Wintrow (D) Dist. 19

Total Contributions

$35,502

Total Contributions

$17,754

In-district Contributions

16.14%

In-district Contributions

49.49%

From individual citizen

71.69%

From individual citizen

76.29%

Joe Palmer (R)


Total Contributions
In-district Contributions
From individual citizen

Dist. 20
$12,240
7.35%
0%

Pete Nielsen (20) Dist. 23


Total Contributions
In-district Contributions
From individual citizen

$9,700
22.68%
2.06%

Elaine Smith (D) Dist. 29

James Holtzclaw (R) Dist. 20


Total Contributions

$7,800

In-district Contributions

2.56%

From individual citizen

0%

Ken Andrus (R) Dist. 28


Total Contributions
In-district Contributions
From individual citizen

$9,650
15.54%
0%

Thomas Loertscher (R) Dist. 32

Total Contributions

$10,515

Total Contributions

$21,800

In-district Contributions

22.84%

In-district Contributions

15.83%

From individual citizen


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4.99%

From individual citizen

10%

Better Idaho

Linden Bateman (R) Dist. 33


Total Contributions
In-district Contributions
From individual citizen

$8,900
22.75%
7.05%

Discussion The steady decline of voter participation in the past 30 years


is a trend that has not been stopped nor reversed by an increase of money
in our elections. In fact, the more money that pours into politics, the fewer
people bother casting ballots.
Regardless, it is crucial for the long-term vitality of our government that
citizens vote. Participation is the essence of democracy.
It is possible that limiting out-of-district political contributions and/or
establishing a ratio of contributions from average citizens versus special
interest groups could encourage politicians to spend less time seeking large
donors and more time interacting with his or her constituents.
While there is no guarantee these measures would affect voter turnout, the
alternative would be accepting that nearly one quarter of the House State
Affairs Committee received no contributions from average citizens during
the 2014 election year. That simple fact creates cynicism in a system that
doesnt need any additional cynicism.

www.BetterIdaho.org