For Rep. Simpson’s foe Bryan Smith, campaign finance is a family affair

First-time candidate Bryan Smith’s impressive first campaign finance report filed with the FEC on Saturday is built on each member of a household making the maximum $2,600 contribution to Smith’s 2014 GOP primary challenge to Rep. Mike Simpson.

Smith announced two weeks ago that he’d raised an eye-catching $149,400 in the first month of his campaign. Of that, $50,000 comes from Smith’s own pocket to his campaign committee. The balance is $99,400 from individuals, all but two of those from Eastern Idaho.

Of the $99,400, $77,400 came from 18 couples, along with one other relative in the same household. A dozen pairs gave $2,600 each.

Bonneville GOP Central Committee Chairman Doyle Beck is the biggest Republican noteworthy in the bunch. Beck owns an Idaho Falls construction company that is represented by Smith’s law firm. Doyle Beck gave $2,600, as did his wife, Elizabeth. Beck’s sister, Sharon Oakey and her husband, Steve, of Rexburg, each gave $2,600.

Beck’s brother, former Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck, didn’t contribute. Rod Beck helped win the long battle to bar Democrats and independents from the GOP primary, which took effect in 2012. In June, Rod Beck failed to convince the state Republican convention to adopt a rule requiring any GOP candidates to get the blessing of the Idaho Republican Party before they could appear on the primary ballot.

Other families with the same addresses giving $2,600 per person: Dan (an outlier who gave $2,500), Kristin and Mark Beck of Idaho Falls; Michelle and Ty Erickson of Idaho Falls; Kathy and Newman Giles of Iona; Diane and John Jensen of Idaho Falls; Alison and Brady Lee of Idaho Falls; Barbara and Danny Miller of Idaho Falls; Alexis and Chad Rasmussen of Provo, Utah; Doug and Joann Raymond of Idaho Falls; Ann and Garth Romrell of Idaho Falls; Shelly and Stafford Smith of Idaho Falls; Alison and Lynn Stromberg of Idaho Falls; Shane and Susan Thomas of Rigby; Jennie and Steven Todd of Idaho Falls; Denise and Mark Weight of Idaho Falls; and Kris and Rochelle Wright of Idaho Falls. (Barbara Miller is Smith’s treasurer.)

Smith retained a respectable $132,650 in cash at the close of the reporting period, June 30.

But Simpson had $334,778 in cash, built on more aggressive second-quarter fundraising from individuals and political action committees. Simpson, an eight-term lawmaker who chairs one of 12 Appropriations subcommittees can count on waves of PAC money that wash over incumbents, particularly chairmen. From April to June, Simpson reported $214,500 in PAC contributions and $91,235 from individuals.

Smith, however, has his own hole card: Last week’s endorsement from the deep-pocketed anti-tax group Club for Growth. In 2006, the $1.1 million raised by the club for former GOP Congressman Bill Sali was decisive in helping him win his single term in Congress.

Club for Growth President Chris Chocola told me last week that the group would immediately begin a “bundling” campaign for Smith. Club for Growth urges its supporters to write checks to Smith, but to send them to the club’s offices in Washington, D.C. In turn, the club collects the checks and provides them to Smith in a bundle. The club also purchases advertising independently, often attack ads aimed at incumbents.

The third-quarter reports due Oct. 15 will tell us a good deal about whether Smith will have the resources to give Simpson his first serious race since he won the 2nd District seat in 1998.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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