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Dark money environmentalists bolster Beyeler, Ricks through phony sportsmens group

Dark money environmentalists bolster Beyeler, Ricks through phony sportsmens group

Dustin Hurst
May 12, 2016
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May 12, 2016

Funding from a dark-money environmental organization is flowing through a phony sportsmen group to bolster the campaigns of District 8 Rep. Merrill Beyeler and Madison County Republican Doug Ricks, who’s vying for a seat in District 34.

According to a recent disclosure report filed with the state, Sportsmen for Idaho spent $2,443 on postage and literature to boost Beyeler in his re-election contest. The group also spent $1,640 to prop up Ricks.

Despite the name, Sportsmen for Idaho isn’t about sportsmen. Rather, it’s a shell group for the Idaho Conservation League and Conservation Voters for Idaho, two top green groups in the Gem State.

The disclosure report reveals the sportsman group and the conservation voters share the same Boise P.O. Box. Additionally, Idaho Conservation League staffer Martin Balben signed the sportsmen group’s state disclosure form.

In a separate disclosure report, the Conservation Voters for Idaho revealed that it donated more than $15,000 to the sportsmen group. That amount includes five separate in-kind donations, including an $8,000 in-kind expense spent at a call center in Houston, Texas.

The Idaho Conservation League and the Conservation Voters for Idaho are part of a larger environmental organization. The League of Conservation Voters, based in Washington, D.C., serves as the umbrella for the state-based groups and often provides assistance -- cash or technical -- to its state affiliates.

The national League of Conservation Voters provided the Idaho affiliate more than $60,000 according to its 2014 federal 990 form, the most recent available.

During the 2014 election year, the national group spent more than $7 million attacking Republican candidates across the country, plus spent another $7 million in support of Democrats.

Similar data are not yet available for the 2016 election cycle.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, little is know about the full extent of the league’s funding, but a few clues exist. The center reported, in 2013 some of the league’s funding came from the George Soros-backed Tides Foundation, as well as other groups with links to former aides for President Barack Obama.

Most recently, the national League of Conservation Voters, which CPI described as a “dark money heavyweight,” endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Support from the environmental left is nothing new for Beyeler. The Conservation Voters for Idaho contributed $1,000 to his 2014 campaign. Additionally that year, it spent more than $28,000 on independent expenditures on his behalf, mainly through the phony sportsmen group.

The national League of Conservation Voters was so proud of its efforts to elect Beyeler, it bragged about the win in an Oct. 28, 2014 memo to supporters. That same memo also boasted of the group’s campaign effort for Sen. Abby Lee, a moderate Republican from District 9 in western Idaho.

This is the Idaho league’s first chance to support Ricks. A letter sent days ago to District 34 voters boasted of Ricks’ conservative credentials and commitment to the Republican Party.

Neither Ricks nor Beyeler returned requests for comment.

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