A contractor who last week received a contract from the Idaho Department of Education has past ties to the state agency’s head man and the Idaho Republican Party.
Two of Education Networks of America’s (ENA) top Idaho staffers worked for the Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and the state party.
Last week, the Idaho Department of Education announced a $2.1 million contract with ENA to install high-speed Internet connections in Idaho high schools. To date, approximately 60 percent of the school districts in the state have indicated they will join the network constructed by ENA.
After the announcement of the contract, state lawmakers cried foul, complaining the agreement, which could stretch into a 15-year deal, went outside legislative intent.
Several news reports have detailed ENA’s closeness with Luna, but the company’s links to the superintendent go deeper than previously reported.
Garry Lough, ENA’s top official in Idaho, served as an aide to Luna from January 2007 through July 2007. Lough also worked as the communications director for the Idaho Education Network (IEN), the project that connects Idaho high schools with broadband. He left that post to take the job with ENA.
Another connection is Mike Vance, who ENA describes as an “account services manager” on its website. Vance, who didn’t return a message from IdahoReporter.com, served on Luna’s campaign staff in 2006, according to public records filed with the secretary of state’s office.
Luna’s October 2006 campaign disclosure document shows three separate salary payments made to Vance, each for $1,250. Similar payments to Vance are not on subsequent filings from Luna’s 2006 campaign. The documents do not detail what position Vance held with Luna’s campaign.
That is not Vance’s only connection to Idaho politics, though.
OpenSecrets.org, a money-tracking website published by the Center for Responsive Politics, reveals that the Idaho Republican Party paid Vance nearly $22,000 during the 2006 election cycle. The party also paid Vance just more than $7,000 during the 2004 cycle.
The transparency website also notes that the state party paid Lough more than $57,000 in the 2006 cycle and just more than $16,000 in the 2004 cycle.
Idaho Education News’ Kevin Richert noted that Martin Bilbao, a former lobbyist, also works for ENA. Bilbao, too, worked for the GOP and managed Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s 2010 campaign.
Richert w>also wrote that ENA has contributed $6,000 to Luna’s campaign accounts since 2009, and given donations to 42 state lawmakers.
Melissa McGrath, Luna’s spokesman at the state department, confirmed Lough’s 2007 stint on Luna’s staff, but couldn’t speak to Vance’s work on the superintendent’s 2006 campaign.