The state’s most influential business group — the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry — has established a new Super PAC in large part to support eight-term Republican Congressman Mike Simpson’s re-election in 2014.
IACI President Alex LaBeau said Friday that the Gem State Prosperity Fund will operate as the federal sister to the group’s state political action committee, the Idaho Prosperity Fund.
LaBeau said the group will make independent expenditures to help counter attacks from the Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth, the first Super PAC to be involved in the race. In July, Club for Growth endorsed Idaho Falls lawyer Bryan Smith, and has been steadily critiquing Simpson on the Web.
In 2006, Club for Growth raised $1.1 million on behalf of one-term GOP Congressman Bill Sali and Simpson says he’s preparing for the group to raise as much as $2 million to help Smith, a first-time candidate with tea party backing. Also in July, a centrist GOP Super PAC, Main Street Partnership, announced support for Simpson. Former Ohio GOP Congressman Steve LaTourette said his Washington-based group would match Club for Growth “dollar for dollar.”
LaBeau said no spending goal has yet been established for the Gem State Prosperity Fund, but added, “If you’re going to effectively engage in a race of the magnitude of the 2nd Congressional District, it’s going to take a couple hundred thousand dollars to do what we do.”
IACI’s state PAC raised about $169,000 from its business members in 2012 for state elections, winning all 16 contests, including high-profile GOP primaries in support of Sens. Bert Brackett of Rogerson, Shawn Keough of Sandpoint and Patti Anne Lodge of Huston.
The Gem State Prosperity Fund registered as an Idaho corporation last week. The fund also filed with the IRS and Federal Election Commission and LaBeau said the group will report its donors — unlike some non-profit “527″ Super PACs.
Like the Idaho Prosperity Fund, the federal political action committee will operate independently of any candidates, as required by law. Gem State will spend directly to advocate for Simpson, focusing on direct mail, email, telephone calls and radio.
IACI represents most of the largest businesses in Idaho, including Amalgamated Sugar, Batelle Energy Alliance (the operator of the Idaho National Lab), Blue Cross, CenturyLink, Clearwater Paper, Hecla, Hewlett-Packard, Idaho Power, J.R. Simplot Co., Melaleuca, Micron, Monsanto, Potlatch, Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke’s, among others.
LaBeau said Smith’s advocacy of Club for Growth’s agenda troubles business. “They’re endorsing a trial lawyer who wants to shut down the government, shut down the INL, shut down the BLM. That’s not good for business, that’s not good for the state of Idaho.”
A fourth Super PAC also is involved, the Washington-based American Chemistry Council, which has been running pro-Simpson TV ads in recent weeks.