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Local political leaders respond to OtterPAC

Earlier this week Gov. Butch Otter announced he’s formed a political action committee. Local politicians feel it’s a way for the governor to influence voters, getting them to vote for candidates at the local and state level who agree with his philosophy.

“I think that’s what the PAC does, it buys support,” said Democratic legislator Roy Lacey.

Otter has created a stir with the announcement of his political action committee.

“Well, what if somebody wanted somebody else for governor?” said Bryan Smith, Region 7 chairman for the Idaho Republican Party. “In fact he had a challenger, Russ Fulcher ran for governor and got 44 percent of the vote. So what does that mean? He’s not going to support those people who do a great job informing their neighbors of what’s going on in the Republican Party because they’re a Russ Fulcher supporter?”

“It is a worry. It should be a worry to everyone in the state,” Lacey said. “PACs are very powerful and they’re used to push private agendas.”

“Throw a bunch of money, like independent money,” said former legislator Erik Simpson. “Thousands, 5, 10, 20 thousand dollars can affect the outcome of these races.”

Political leaders say it’s the governor putting his hands in politics he shouldn’t be.

“One would think he has enough on his plate serving as the chief executive of the state,” Smith said. “He should be filling appointments, coming up with legislative agenda. Instead he’s raising money for the grassroots political system.”

‘It’s almost nepotism, because you can choose your little family,” Lacey said. “If you spend enough money on a campaign you can sway the voters.”

Mark Hatch, the acting chairman of the Bonneville Democratic Party, said, “If they want to go after each other for favoritism, be my guest.”

Republicans and Democrats alike believe the OtterPAC would be a problem for the Idaho Legislature.

“I like the governor, I worked very well with him when I was a lawmaker,” Simpson said. “I contributed to his campaign, but I think this is not the best thing to do.”
“From my personal standpoint, yes, it is wrong for him to do this,” Lacey said. “He should be a servant of the people and he has not been.”

Lawmakers also worry because the PAC doesn’t have rules to it. Gov. Otter can build a political system with his own philosophy from the ground up.
“The moderate Republicans are the ones that need to worry about this,” Lacey said. “As the party moves farther and farther to the right, the state could be in real trouble.”

Gov. Otter will be holding his fundraiser for the PAC Jan. 9. There’s a minimum donation of $500 to participate.

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