November 16, 2023

Is Brad Little Behind Attacks on Conservatives?

By: Brian Almon

Last month, a group called the Idaho Liberty PAC spent nearly $50,000 on literature and staff targeting Senators Tammy Nichols, Chris Trakel, and Brian Lenney, all from Canyon County.

What is the Idaho Liberty PAC? Who is funding it?

Here are the three door hangers that Idaho Liberty PAC is paying people to spread around Canyon County:

Notice their rhetoric. They all claim that the three senators want to turn Idaho into San Francisco, and that they voted to “defund” the police, prisons, and veterans. Their sources for this claim are three bloated budget bills that conservative legislators voted against that happened to include some taxpayer money for police and veterans. That’s how the rhetoric works, of course. The spending addicts stuff as many lines as they can into these budgets, and when conservatives vote against them they accuse them of wanting to “defund” police, no different from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar.

What’s absurd about this claim is that the same people who typically call Senators Nichols, Trakel, and Lenney “right-wing extremists” are now saying they’re liberals. Of course, what is really happening here is that the people behind these attacks are targeting different people with different rhetoric. They want moderates to believe that the three senators are crazy radicals who are spreading anarchy, while telling conservatives that they are actually left-wing liberals. It’s obviously dishonest, but that’s politics.

Tammy Nichols said something very interesting earlier this week. Appearing on the Freedom Bros Podcast to announce her reelection bid, Nichols related a story about running into one of the paid door knockers for the Idaho Liberty PAC. Apparently not recognizing her, he shared that he came from Utah and that he and his colleagues would be back in April, before the primary election. When Nichols asked whose PAC this was, he called it “Brad Little’s PAC.”

Click here to watch Sen. Nichols on Freedom Bros. The story starts around 4:00.

Let’s follow some money. As of this writing, the Idaho Liberty PAC has received $584,000 from 17 different donors. Some of their big checks came courtesy of the Idaho Association of Realtors ($25,000), Ahlquist Development ($5,000), Richard & Peggy Larson Farms ($20,000), and Melaleuca ($70,000). The largest chunk of money, however, came from something called the Idaho Victory Fund, which contributed $340,000 to the Idaho Liberty PAC.

So what is the Idaho Victory Fund?

As of this writing, the Idaho Victory Fund has donated $441,545 to various candidates and PACs, including the $340,000 to the Idaho Liberty PAC. Most of their smaller donations went to candidates that I would consider moderate or establishment, including Jeff Agenbroad, Carl Crabtree, Jim Patrick, Jim Woodward, Laurie Lickley, Greg Chaney, Jim Guthrie, and many more.

As a PAC, Idaho Victory Fund has received $1,160,580 over the past three years. Most of their contributions have come from big corporations, many of which represent the healthcare industry. These include $11,000 from Blue Cross of Idaho, $22,000 from the Idaho Credit Union Legislative Action Committee, $10,000 from the Idaho Forest Group, $10,000 from Melaleuca, $25,000 from the Motor Vehicle Software Corporation, $9,500 from Regence, $10,000 from St. Luke’s Health Plan, $10,000 from Surgery Partners, and $4,250 from the Mike Simpson for Congress campaign.

However, nearly half of the Idaho Victory Fund’s war chest came from something called the Idaho Inaugural Committee. This organization contributed $500,000 on March 6, 2023. So what on Earth is the Idaho Inaugural Committee?

According to the Sunshine report, the Idaho Inaugural Committee made a single donation, the aforementioned $500,000 to the Idaho Victory Fund. Searching for the committee as a PAC brings up nothing. However, there is another PAC called the Friends of Brad Little that shares the same PO Box as the Idaho Inaugural Committee. The Friends of Brad Little PAC was formed on November 12, 2022, just days after Governor Little was reelected. However, on the day it was filed, it was known as the Idaho Inaugural Committee.

The Idaho Inaugural Committee, the Friends of Brad Little PAC, and Brad Little’s campaign for governor all share the same treasurer, Vicki Risch, wife of Senator Jim Risch who briefly occupied the governor’s office himself.

As of this writing, the PAC has received $789,375. There are many familiar names on their donor list, including Richard and Peggy Larsen Farms ($30,000), the Idaho Automobile Dealers Association ($30,000), Melaleuca ($20,000), Blue Cross of Idaho ($10,000), and Regence ($10,000).

One entry that stands out is $2,500 from David Little, the governor’s son and manager of the family business. This indicates to me that there is very little separation between the governor and this PAC.

Another interesting entry is Premier Technology, which contributed $25,000 to the Friends of Brad Little. Premier was cofounded by Doug Sayer, the same Doug Sayer referenced by Rep. Megan Blanksma in her testimony in favor of H24, the Idaho LAUNCH Grant:

When former representative Ron Nate called out this obvious cronyism in his own testimony to the Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee, Chairman Kevin Cook abruptly shut him down and called a guard to have him removed:

Brad Little was sworn in for his second term on January 6, 2023. On March 6, the Idaho Inaugural Committee donated $500,000 to the Idaho Victory Fund, and the next day it filed a C-2 form indicating it had been renamed to the Friends of Brad Little PAC.

So let’s connect some dots. Big corporations donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Idaho Inaugural Committee, also known as the Friends of Brad Little PAC. This PAC shares the same treasurer as Governor Little’s campaign, and received donations from members of his family. After the inauguration, the PAC delivered half a million dollars to the Idaho Victory Fund, which over the last year and a half has donated $340,000 to the Idaho Liberty PAC, which is spending money attacking Senators Trakel, Nichols, and Lenney.

So perhaps the paid door-knocker encountered by Tammy Nichols was correct: it’s not wholly inaccurate to say that this is Brad Little’s PAC. These attacks are in sync with the letters from Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Winder to Senators LenneyScott Herndon, and Glenneda Zuiderveld last week. I can’t say if the attacks on all of these liberty legislators are coordinated from the governor’s office, but it would not surprise me if they were. Did Brad Little ask, suggest, or otherwise imply to Chuck Winder that he should use his position to go after their shared political enemies?

Winder, Little, and many others in Idaho state government are part of a massive system, a machine with many moving parts that transfers your tax dollars to bureaucrats and friendly corporations. Doug Sayer needed welders, so rather than paying to train them himself he donated a chunk of money to a PAC connected to Governor Little, who then used all of his political capital to pass the Idaho LAUNCH Grant, giving $8,000 of your money to high school graduates to hand over to companies like Sayer’s.

At the heart of this system is IACI, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. They are the lobbying arm of Idaho businesses, as Sen. Zuiderveld explained in the post that got her in hot water with Chuck Winder. Notice how many IACI members are the same corporations that donated so much money to the Idaho Victory Fund and the Friends of Brad Little PAC. Governor Little himself is a past president of IACI, so the connections between the lobby group and the governor’s office are as strong as they could possibly be.

IACI has already released their 2024 legislative endorsements. In addition to their favorites already in the Legislature, they endorsed all of the challengers to the liberty legislators, including Sarah Chaney who is challenging Trakel (edit: Sarah Chaney is up against Lucas Cayler for Rep. Chris Allgood’s seat in LD11, who is rumored to be not running in 2024), Lori Bishop who is challenging Nichols, Jim Woodward who is challenging Herndon, Alex Cavel who is challenging Zuiderveld, and Jeff Agenbroad who is challenging Lenney. Agenbroad’s endorsement was promoted even before the former senator officially announced his own campaign, which tells you how closely IACI is entangled in Idaho politics.

IACI, the PACs associated with Governor Little, and Senator Winder are all attacking the same people, because IACI, Governor Little, and Senator Winder are all part of the same system, the established political order in Idaho whose goal is to grow government and enrich friendly corporations. Challenging this system means painting a target on your back for wealthy and powerful special interests, as Brian, Glenneda, and the others have discovered. But challenge it we must.

Liberty legislators like Scott Herndon, Glenneda Zuiderveld, Brian Lenney, Tammy Nichols, and Chris Trakel threaten this system. They are exposing how the system actually works — who pulls the strings, who benefits, and who are simply pawns. The letters from Chuck Winder and door hangers from the Idaho Liberty PAC are just the opening shots of what will be a brutal and bloody rhetorical war for control of the Idaho State Senate, and by extension, your money.

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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