October 6, 2023

BREAKING NEWS: Ada County GOP Leaders Resign En Masse
It was an eventful evening in Boise

By: Brian Almon

Brian Almon

On Thursday evening, I headed into Boise for the regular monthly meeting of the Ada County Republican Central Committee (ACRCC). As longtime readers know, I used to be a precinct committeeman but moved down the road and had to resign my seat. I still follow along as an interested observer, and wanted to see the central committee vote on some bylaw changes in person.

As I was driving, I saw the news that 2/3 of the ACRCC officers had suddenly resigned. Chairman Victor Miller, 1st Vice Chair Megan Reichle, 2nd Vice Chair Travis Clyde, 3rd Vice Chair Barrett Tetlow, Treasurer Dave Litster, and State Committeewoman Kim Wickstrum sent an open letter to various parties throughout the state announcing their resignations and laying the blame at both the Idaho GOP and elements within the ACRCC. Miller called out several volunteer PCs by name, accusing them of sabotage, obstruction, and malfeasance.

That left State Committeeman Mike Hon, State Committee Youth Person Ashley Mujagic, and Secretary Colette Costello as the only elected officers. Incidentally, these three were the only seats that were not held by the candidates presented on Travis Clyde’s slate at the May 2022 reorganization meeting.

I’m not sure what Miller and the rest were trying to accomplish by making this announcement barely an hour before the meeting. If they were hoping to leave chaos in their wake, they must be disappointed, because the meeting went incredibly well. After conferring with experts on the bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order, Secretary Colette Costello called the meeting to order a mere ten minutes late, announcing that a quorum was present. The body elected Region IV Chairman Mark Johnson to preside as chairman pro tempore, and he took over the meeting.

With a temporary chairman in place, the committee deliberated over two bylaw amendments. The first restored voting privileges for legislative district (LD) chairs on the ACRCC executive board. This was a direct rebuke to the former chairman, who had spearheaded a rule change nearly two years ago removing those voting rights, leaving the LD chairs on the board as ex oficio non-voting members. Several LD chairs spoke in favor of the amendment on Thursday, describing how the former officers had treated them poorly since the initial change in 2020.

This proposal easily passed the 2/3 requirement for amending the bylaws. The second amendment brought the ACRCC into alignment with state party rules regarding proxy votes, which were disallowed after the recent Summer Meeting. It was the presence of proxy votes that caused the previous attempt to amend the bylaws regarding LD chairs on the executive board to fail last May. More on that below.

The committee then considered issues that arose from the mass resignation. They created a plan to maintain control of ACRCC financial accounts as well as to request the return of digital and physical assets that remained in the possession of the former officers.

In all, the meeting went fairly smoothly, considering the circumstances. It lacked much of the tension that had marred recent meetings. Mark Johnson kept things moving and under control, and the committee rose to the occasion admirably. They will presumably call an election to fill the vacant officer positions sometime in the next 30 days.

That is the what. But what is the why?

The former officers of the ACRCC have been at odds with both a majority of their own committee as well as the Idaho GOP leadership for more than a year now. Victor Miller called both groups out in his open letter Thursday evening. The attacks on the state party were more of the same lines about purges and cabals and not trusting the voters that we have seen ever since Dorothy Moon’s overwhelming victory last summer.

What is really happening is that grassroots constituents have finally had enough of Republicans who campaign as conservatives but vote like liberals. The problem with Miller and others who are perturbed by the new rule changes is that their metric for success is voter registrations, full stop. They seem to be entirely unconcerned with whether or not those voters actually have conservative values, or if the candidates who run under the Republican banner vote in a conservative manner.

This was demonstrated last year in several races, most notably for the trustees of the College of Western Idaho. There were four conservative candidates and four leftists, but since two of the latter had registered as Republicans, Miller and the ACRCC insisted on putting them on the committee voter guide. They wholly reject the rating and vetting process that other committees such as Kootenai County engage in to make sure their voters are as informed as possible, but they are not above working behind the scenes to ensure their favorite candidates have a clear path. Victor Miller is close to former Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna — they did a radio show together, even after Luna was ousted as state chair. Luna infamously denounced Ammon Bundy when he filed to run for the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2021, but sued the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee because they dared to endorse candidates in the very same primary.

The dues issue that Miller brought up in the open letter has been argued to death. County committees have long supported the state party, but Miller apparently had a deal with Luna to give less than half of what the ACRCC would normally have owed. The state central committee passed a rule clarifying and enforcing the dues last summer, threatening counties with a loss of convention delegates if they failed to pay. After trying and failing to argue that Ada County paid some sort of in-kind substitute based on mailers and door hangers for statewide candidates, the ACRCC finally paid what it owed last month.

I’m not sure that Miller and the other officers realize how frustrated the rest of the state has become with the largest county in the state throwing its weight around and acting like state rules shouldn’t apply. Go anywhere else in Idaho and listen to complaints about the State of Ada. Many other counties, of all ideological bents, proudly and faithfully pay their dues, so watching Victor Miller defend his flaunting of party rules to the state central committee only deepened divisions.

Miller called out several members of the ACRCC by name for things he believe they did that undermined the party. Some of what he said verges on libel — he falsely accused Laurel Morgan of leaking details about a financial complaint against the ACRCC executive board to the media at the behest of the state party.

The complaint had been filed earlier this year by several ACRCC PCs regarding some perceived discrepancies in financial reporting. Idaho GOP Chairwoman Dorothy Moon responded to the complaint by creating a financial review committee tasked with investigating the discrepancies. It was the letter from Moon to Victor Miller and Treasurer Dave Litster that was leaked to the Idaho Dispatch.

Miller appealed the decision of the chair, and that appeal was denied by the judicial review committee. Whether or not he planned to appeal to the entire state central committee is now moot, as the ACRCC passed a motion Thursday night to implement the same financial review that Moon had ordered in the first place.

Speaking of financial issues, there is something odd going on with the ACRCC lately. More than $10,000 in donations were returned to donors in the month of September alone. A big chunk of that was $6,000 that had been donated by a man named Ryan Hardy earlier this year. What makes this especially odd is that Hardy immediately donated that very amount to a new PAC called the Idaho Majority Club. This PAC was created by William Baber, a former city councilman in La Mesa, a suburb of San Diego, California.

The PAC was formed at the end of August, mere days before the ACRCC refunded the $6,000. As of the end of September, donors to the Idaho Majority Club were William Baber’s La Mesa city council campaign, former 2nd Vice Chair Travis Clyde and another member of his family, former 1st Vice Chair Megan Reichle, the aforementioned Ryan Hardy, and Rod Wickstrum, husband of former State Committeewoman Kim Wickstrum.

Did Victor Miller and his friends loot the treasury on the way out the door?

It gets stranger. Baber worked closely with Barrett Tetlow in California. Both are mentioned in a 2009 article investigating a potential scandal regarding the San Diego County Republican Central Committee. Tetlow was hired by Victor Miller in 2021 as executive director of the ACRCC, paid for by an initially anonymous donation. In 2022, Tetlow ran for precinct committeeman and was subsequently elected 3rd Vice Chair. In that capacity, Tetlow chaired the Finance and Budget Committee, and worked closely with Treasurer Dave Litster on financial matters.

According to the ACRCC bylaws, a financial review is required each year and when a new treasurer takes over. The past three reviews were conducted by none other than William Baber. Several PCs believed the 2022 review was not comprehensive, missing several alleged irregularities, which led to the financial complaint to the state party.

There are many questions about ACRCC finances that remain unanswered. In the summer of 2022, BoiseDev senior reporter Margaret Carmel uncovered a web of LLCs connected to a single individual, Chris Nolan, that were used to donate money to the ACRCC and several Republican candidates. One such LLC, Lansing Farms, donated $30,000 to the ACRCC in April of 2021, which was right about the time that Victor Miller hired Barrett Tetlow as executive director. The ACRCC would go on to pay Tetlow just over $32,000 between May of 2021 and June of 2022.

The month of September 2023 shows more oddities in the ACRCC’s campaign finance report, in addition to the refunds. For example, nearly $5,000 was paid to First Class Cleaning LCC on September 13 under expenditure code L, which refers to “Literature, Brochures, Printing”. First Class Cleaning is owned by none other than former 2nd Vice Chair Travis Clyde, which raises some obvious questions. It’s entirely possible that this was all above board — reimbursement for work that Clyde has done on behalf of the party. However, everything done over the past few months must be audited in uncompromising detail.

The Idaho Dispatch reported on February 1 that Chairwoman Dorothy Moon had some concerns about expenditures made by Victor Miller and former Idaho GOP Chairman Tom Luna for their Red Wave Radio program on the KIDO and KLIX radio stations. Moon was on the agenda for the following day’s ACRCC meeting, but Miller attempted to move her speaking slot to before the meeting. She demanded to speak at her originally scheduled time, at which point the public got to see 3rd Vice Chair Tetlow debate against allowing the state chair to speak to the committee.

In his open letter, Victor Miller said:

The Ada County Republicans’ mission is straightforward and in our bylaws: “The mission of the Ada County Republican Central Committee is to promote the Republican Philosophy, build and strengthen the Republican Party from the grassroots up, and elect Republican candidates.”

He claims that it has become impossible to fulfill this mission due to intransigence from the state party and revolt from the PCs. However, it is fair to ask if the former officers were really carrying out that mission.

The committee did a suburb job of electing Republicans last year. Every partisan position in Ada County is now held by the GOP. That said, the insistence on using voter registration as a measure of success is self-defeating. Miller boasts that Republican turnout in Ada County last year was 69.1%, yet the races were all much closer than they should have been. Miller has turned a blind eye to the pervasive problem of crossover voting, which allows leftists to run and win under the Republican banner. Indeed, he complained in his letter about new rules that the state central committee has adopted to combat crossover voting.

Authority in the Republican Party is meant to flow from the ground up. Voters elect PCs, who then elect leadership whose job is to carry out the will of the central committees. That is something that Miller and the other former officers never seemed to grasp. With nearly 200 PCs, the ACRCC is a very large organization, which makes building consensus difficult. It’s easy to see why leaders such as Victor Miller might come to believe that a small and agile executive board can more effectively manage party business. My impression over the last three years has been that Miller, Reichle, Clyde, Tetlow, and the rest preferred to make the decisions themselves and have the central committee rubber stamp their work.

Maybe this is more efficient, but it is not how Republican grassroots politics are supposed to work. Members of the ACRCC became increasingly frustrated that they were being kept out of the decision making process, and began to voice those frustrations during committee meetings. Miller tried several tactics to keep the insurgency at bay, including stacking the agenda with candidate speeches, leaving no room for new business, and even granting calls for adjournment before the agenda was complete.

Their biggest advantage was using proxy votes to make sure they had enough influence in each meeting to get their way, but when the state central committee banned the use of proxies, they saw the writing on the wall. They could no longer call up disinterested PCs and collect their votes like a stack of harvested ballots, which meant the meetings were controlled by those who bothered to show up.

Perhaps the pettiest thing that Miller and crew did Thursday night was to take the Ada County Republican Facebook page offline. All social media accounts are the property of the ACRCC, not any single individual, so I cannot think of a good reason to have done this. It does, however, call into question any self-perceived nobility in the actions of the former officers.

The last decade or so has seen a conservative revolution in Republican politics. Sending Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 was a massive rebuke of establishment Republicans, and Dorothy Moon’s landslide victory in the 2022 Convention was another such rebuke. The former GOP establishment is on the ropes, and they are lashing out in desperation as they see their power and influence fading away. This mass resignation is a positive development for the ACRCC and the liberty movement as a whole.

Now it is on the shoulders of the committee to elect new leaders and to do what is necessary to promote conservative Republican principles over the next six months. The Idaho Republican Party must focus on preparing for the March caucus and fighting the ranked choice voting initiative. This is an exciting time to be in the political arena, and I look forward to seeing more solid conservative statesmen step up to serve as PCs and committee leadership.

Note: A descendant of American pioneers, Brian writes about the importance of culture and about current events in the context of history.  His work can be found on Substack, here.

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