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A look inside the big bucks and key players in Idaho’s 2024 primary election spending

Citizens take part in the voting process Tuesday, May 21, at Hillcrest High School in Idaho Falls.
Pat Sutphin
Citizens take part in the voting process Tuesday, May 21, at Hillcrest High School in Idaho Falls.

On May 21, Idahoans cast their ballots in one of the state’s most expensive primary elections.

According to campaign finance records as of May 21, Idaho legislative candidates raised more than $4.6 million to their campaigns, including individual reports of donations that exceed $1,000.

That is almost a million dollars more than what candidates had raised three weeks ago.

With all the money involved in Idaho politics, here is a breakdown of the top 10 candidates who ran for Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate who raised the most money during the primary election:

A list of the ten highest-grossing Idaho House primary candidates.
A list of the top ten highest-grossing Senate primary candidates.

These PACS were the major players in Idaho’s primary election

In addition to the surge in campaign funds Idaho’s legislative candidates received, political action committees operating in Idaho, or PACS, spent nearly $3.5 million ahead of the primary election.

But two political action committees in particular stand out for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaign in favor of certain Republican candidates.

First, the Citizens Alliance of Idaho, a group based in North Idaho – spent nearly $400,000 campaigning in favor and against legislative candidates.

Below is a list of candidates the PAC spent money on to campaign in favor of and against:

Supported: Julianne Young, Glenneda Zuiderveld, Scott Herndon, Bryan Smith, Jacyn Gallagher, Brian Lenney, Cornel Rasor, Tammy Nichols, Chris Trakel, Lucas Cayler, Jarome Bell, Josh Keyser, Brenda Bourn, Tina Lambert, Clint Hostetler, Joshua Kohl, David Leavitt, Lyle Johnstone, Kally Schiffler, Kirk Jackson, James Lamborn, Karey Hanks, Kelly Golden, Brett Skidmore, Douglas Toomer, Elaine Price, Kyle Harris, Larry Dunn, Christy Zito, Rob Beiswenger, Faye Thompson, Brandon Shippy

Out of those the PAC supported, Young, Herndon, Smith, Gallagher, Trakel, Bell, Bourn, Lambert, Johnstone, Schiffler, Jackson, Lamborn, Hanks, Golden, Skidmore, Toomer, and Dunn lost their races.

Opposed: Mark Sauter, Lori McCann, Kenny Wroten, Julie Yamamoto

Out of those the PAC opposed, Wroten and Yamamoto lost their races.

According to its website, the Citizens Alliance of Idaho prioritizes the right to self defense, medical freedom and privacy, election integrity and education freedom.

Campaign finance records show the Idaho PAC received money from two entities: Citizens Alliance Political Action Committee Inc., a federal PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission; and Doyle Beck, an Idaho Falls resident who serves as a legislative district chair for the Bonneville County Republican Party and sits on the board of directors for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a far-right lobbying organization.

Beck donated $10,000 to the Idaho committee while the federal PAC donated $390,000 it.

No other donors to the Citizens Alliance of Idaho, besides Beck, came from Idaho. Records on the Federal Election Commission website show the remaining 25 donors of the federal version of the PAC came from Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Maine and California — giving amounts ranging from $500 to $100,000.

The second PAC that stands out is the Idaho Federation for Children, which spent $303,000 of its funds on printing materials and media advertising to campaign in favor and against the following candidates:

Supported: Julie VanOrden, Wendy Horman, Chuck Winder, David Cannon
Opposed: Kenny Wroten, Melissa Durant, Richard Cheatum

VanOrden, Horman, Cannon and Cheatum won their races in the primary election, while Winder, Wroten and Durant lost their races. All of these candidates are incumbents.

According to the political committee’s website, its main issue revolves around school choice, or using public funds to subsidize private school tuition.

Despite its name, campaign finance records on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website show none of the committee’s money came from Idaho.

All $400,000 of the contributions the Idaho PAC received ahead of the primary came from the American Federation for Children’s Victory Fund, a Dallas-based national super PAC dedicated to spending money to support lawmakers in favor of using taxpayer dollars to support private education and to oppose those who don’t.

That amount is double what the federal PAC gave to the Idaho Federation for Children during the 2022 primary, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported.

According to campaign finance records on the Federal Election Commission website, some of the American Federation for Children’s Victory Fund’s top donors include Jeff Yass, a billionaire TikTok investor and the richest person in Pennsylvania; and former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

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This story was originally published by the Idaho Capital Sun.