Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Otter's Campaign Donations

Idaho Code Section 67-6610A limits contributions to political candidates. An individual or “Recognized legal Entity” can donate $5,000 for the primary election and another $5,000 for the general election. IC Sec 67-6614 says that you can’t make contributions anonymously, with a fictitious name or through an agent in a manner to conceal the identity of the contributor. There are various fines for violating these provisions, and the Secretary of State will investigate if anyone files a complaint.

Butch Otter’s campaign reported a donation of $2,500 on 11 October 2005 from the Rural Telephone Company and another on the same day for $2,500 from Pend Orielle Telephone Company. (See page 126) Both were earmarked for the primary. The RTC operates in rural areas in Idaho bringing telephone service, and POTC operates in Washington. Per the Idaho Sec of State, RTC is a corporation in good standing. Per the Washington Sec of State, same goes for POTC.

Otter’s campaign reported another donation of $2,500 from each entity on 15 December 2005, earmarked for the primary, and another donation on the 15 from each earmarked for the general. (See page 167) So far, so good,

However, the fishy part is that the address for both entities is the same; 892 West Madison, Glenns Ferry, Idaho. The donations appear one right after another on the reporting form, clearly showing the same address. James Martell is the registered agent for RTC, giving the same address. RTC’s Web site talks about how a James Martell founded the company.

POTC’s website lists its “Corporate Office” as 704 W. Madison, Glenns Ferry, Idaho. The FCC spanked POTC for various defalcations, and in the order one Mark A. Martell of 892 Madison, Glenns Ferry was listed as the Assistant Manager. Per the Idaho Secretary of State, Mark A. Martell is listed as a Director of RTC. I'm guessing James Martell is dad, and Mark is one of his sons. Although per the documents filed with the Sec of State Martell was not a founder, he did come on the scene in 1984. In 1987, the directors were James, Carmela and Michael, no doubt dad, mom and number one son. Mark A. Martell didn't appear as a director until later.

It looks like both phone companies are closely held, i.e., no public stock. Such companies are typically a corporate alter ego for the person founding and running the company. The Idaho statutes and regulations are pretty vague on this issue, but certainly the spirit of the law is that a person can’t exceed the donation limits by using a front.

The companies appear to be legit, and the donations may well be, technically. Nevertheless, what we’ve got here is one guy, Martell, causing his companies to donate $10,000 to Otter’s primary campaign, twice the allowable for a person or single entity. They've also given another $5,000 to the general, and I’d bet that we see another pair of $2,500 donations for the general. I wonder why Martell is such an ardent Otter fan? I wonder if it has anything to do with the $20,000 fine POTC had to pay to the FCC?

2 comments:

Diana Rowe Pauls said...

great catch!!!!! DANG!

Julie in Boise said...

Good stuff, Alan.

Otter seems totally beholden to business interests. There's nothing inherently wrong with being pro-business, of course. But when does access become influence, and at what point do business donations trump the will and interests of the common good?

It seems to me Otter crossed that line long ago.