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SOS fines North Idaho Republicans

| May 12, 2022 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — North Idaho Republicans, a newly formed association, is now also a political action committee, following complaints of campaign finance reporting violations lodged against the group by Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chairman Brent Regan.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office investigated the complaints, and on Friday fined the North Idaho Republicans for not registering as a political action committee before engaging in political activities, including purchasing an ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press Voters Guide.

North Idaho Republicans was formed and registered March 17 with the secretary of state’s business division as an unincorporated nonprofit association.

The group’s treasurer, former Idaho Lt. Gov. Jack Riggs, said that when the secretary of state’s office determined last week that they had to operate as a political action committee, they created the North Idaho Republicans PAC.

“We have already filed our campaign finance reports and paid the fine,” Riggs said.

The fine was $2,500.

"We encapsulated all potential penalties, which is why they received the maximum," said Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck, in a phone interview Wednesday.

Houck said there were enough violations that it would have been excessive had the state levied fines for each one. He said his office was told the North Idaho Republicans had $67 in expenditures, well below the $100 threshold for reporting. Later, Houck said, they learned about the Coeur d'Alene Press ad, which cost significantly more than $100.

Regan filed complaints April 21, a day after the North Idaho Republicans made a public announcement of the group’s formation, and again on May 4.

“These activities are being conducted by politically experienced individuals; many are former candidates who know the law,” Regan wrote, on the May 4 complaint.

The complaints asserted the association was violating campaign finance rules by advocating for and against candidates on, and because the newspaper ad was directing people to the website.

On its website, North Idaho Republicans is critical of Regan and the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, asserting the committee has drifted from traditional Republican principles and driven away many Republicans. The group’s website includes a lengthy list of founding members, including local business and community leaders, many who have served as elected officials.

“Our plans going forward will be like other associations which have two entities, a 501(c)(4) association as well as a separate PAC,” Riggs said.